Friday December 29 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

Scripture: John 2:1-11

Key verses: (9-11) When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Reflection: Jesus himself lived a joyful life. You can see signs of that in the gospels in terms of his clever parables and his funny stories.  His very first miracle was at a party, a wedding party. Jesus turned water into wine when all the wine had run out. I have read this a thousand times and assumed the party keeps on going with abundant joy.

But I have been to my fair share of weddings. I cannot imagine if the wedding lasted for more than a few days. Yes, there is great joy and an abundance of love. Right under the surface, you can also find selfishness and some old family wounds. At some weddings, it isn’t even below the surface.  Everything gets judged and the passive-aggressive work the crowd. I wonder if weddings need a few more days. I wonder if this wedding party in Cana needed a few more days to figure out a new way of being together. I wonder if it takes a few days to become vulnerable enough to experience the true community that can be found at a wedding or the love that runs deep.

Why do we make it so hard? Life, that is. Maybe it is as easy as embracing love. Admitting a need for one another. Celebrating each other. Being kind.

We are a few days removed from Christmas and the whole nativity makes no sense unless we embrace this new decision from God about the world.  Today in 2017, God entered the darkness and brought light. There was fear and God brought joy. Joy for you and for me. Let’s not make it harder than it is.

Prayer: God, break into this in-between time with your peace and joy. Break up our old habits and transform us through the good news of Christ. Amen.

Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Thursday December 28 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-thurs

Scripture: Matthew 18:1-14

Key verses: (1-5) At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Reflection: There are very few times when we get to see Jesus angry. This is one of them. Jesus is angry that the disciples are keeping the children from coming to him.  The first third of our lives is a critical time of faith formation. Jesus knows that but do we? Yes, maybe these little children have brains that are still developing but we are not asking them to exegete the parabolic metaphors. Jesus welcomes the children, loves them and lets them know they belong.

Jesus commands the disciples to let the children come to him.  The command was not to step aside and take a break while someone else deals with the children. Jesus call was to join in the work of welcoming and helping the children to claim their identity as one who belongs to Jesus.   We all know how important it is to feel like we belong. Let’s join this valuable work of welcoming the children. Creating space for them as they make their way to Jesus. Let us help them claim their identity as a child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ.  May the church be a place where everyone feels like they belong.

Prayer: Lists, chores, expectations and plans all get in our way God. They get in the way of us following Jesus. Help us break it down to the most basic of needs, belonging. Remind US that we belong. To you and each other.  Give me moments to just sit with this good news today. Amen.

Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Wednesday December 27 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-wed

Scripture: John 13:20-35

Key verse: (34) “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Reflection:  Do you remember the movie, “City Slickers?”  As an aging dad, it’s always been a favorite of mine.  There’s a great scene when Mitch Robbins, played by Billy Crystal, is talking to Curly, the old crusty cowboy, played by Jack Palance.  Here’s a link to the scene (PG-13 warning, there’s a salty word in this clip!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1cmvzRKCCg

Curly asks, “Do you know what the secret of life is?” “No, what?” responds Mitch.  Curly says, “This,” holding up his finger.  Mitch asks, “Your finger?”  Curly answers, “One thing; just one thing.  You stick to that, and everything else don’t mean @$#!.”  “That’s great, but what’s the one thing?” Mitch asks.  Curly responds, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

As Christians, we don’t have to figure out the one thing.  Jesus tells us at the end of John 13.  “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”  That’s the one thing for us.  As for everything else, well, Curly is probably right about that.

Prayer: As you have loved me, O Lord, help me love others.  Amen.

Author: Joe Clifford

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

 

Tuesday December 26 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-tues

Scripture: Psalm 27

Key verse: (1) “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Reflection: Night before last we lit candles in worship and sang Silent Night in the darkness of our Sanctuary.  There was something mystical that seemed to occur when we lifted our candles high in the air, but now, two days later we are back to everyday life.  Perhaps we are sad, perhaps we are relieved this holiday is over.  In the midst of our holiday celebrations and exhaustion, the psalmist reminds us that the Lord is our light and salvation. Even though there is uncertainty in our country right now and many people are afraid or angry; even though our hearts might be breaking because we have lost someone we love; even if this was the best Christmas ever; we need God to light our way and give us strength.  After all the decorations are put away, the Christmas wrapping paper has been recycled, and the tree has been dragged to the curb, the Psalms will continue to acknowledge the full range of human experience and emotion reminding us of what really matters.

God is stronger than our issues or struggles and will continue to be our light and salvation – the stronghold of our lives.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for your enduring presence.  Remind us to place our trust and hope in you.  Help us walk in your ways and not lose heart.  Give us the strength and courage we need to face the events of this day and the days ahead.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Author: Deborah Conner

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Monday December 25 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals

Scripture: 1 John 4:7-16

Key verse: (9) God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

Reflection: Merry Christmas! Whether you are alone or surrounded by family and friends, whether you were awakened early by excited children or you slept late under cozy covers, whether you are looking forward to this day with anticipation or with anxiety, take time now to stop and give thanks for the birth of Jesus Christ.

We believe in a God who chooses incarnation, to choose human flesh, to live among us. Our God isn’t distant and detached. Our God doesn’t get fed up with us and abandon us to our own devices. Our God reveals love for us, in the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, so that we might live with that love and share it with others.  God chooses vulnerability to win the strong, God chooses humility to confound the proud, God chooses love to defeat evil. What good news! Joy to the World! Go Tell It on the Mountain!

Prayer: Who would think that what was needed

To transform and save the earth

Might not be a plan or army;

Proud in purpose, proved in worth?

Who would think, despite derision, that a child should lead the way?

God surprises earth with heaven, coming here on Christmas Day.

 

Shepherds watch and wise men wonder;

Monarchs scorn and angels sing;

Such a place as none would reckon

Hosts a holy helpless thing.

Stable beasts and bypassed strangers watch a baby laid in hay;

God surprises earth with heaven, coming here on Christmas Day.

AMEN!

(from the hymn “Who Would Think That What Was Needed” #138 in Glory to God)

Author: Millie Snyder

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Friday December 22 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-fri

Scripture: Psalm 16

Key verses:  (7-9)
7   I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8   I keep the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

9   Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.

Reflection: It’s almost Christmas. I slept poorly last night, with my growing mental to-do list keeping me up. I know I’m not alone. So far today, four conversations with people have included an exchange like this:

“So, are you ready for Christmas?”

“Nope.”

“Me neither.” (Followed by a litany of all the things we still have to do to prepare (top stressors being baking, cooking, shopping, wrapping, mailing, hosting), and the desire to let some of those tasks go in order to focus on family and faith.)

We all know we don’t need to do all the things we think we need to do. What if we prepared more for the Advent of our Lord than for Christmas at our house? The poet Mary Oliver has a beautiful Advent prayer poem that encourages us to focus on those who are nearest to us, as a way to welcome God.

Prayer: Making the House Ready for the Lord

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but

still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you.  Under the sink, for example, is an

uproar of mice—it is the season of their

many children.  What shall I do?  And under the eaves

and through the walls the squirrels

have gnawed their ragged entrances—but it is the

season when they need shelter, so what shall I do?  And

the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard

while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;

what shall I do?  Beautiful is the new snow falling

in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly

up the path, to the door.  And still I believe you will

come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,

the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know

that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,

as I do all morning and afternoon:  Come in, Come in.

Amen.

Author: Julie Hester

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

Thursday December 21 2017

130801-dailydevovisuals-thurs

Scripture: Luke 1:39-56

Key verses: (46-55)
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Reflection: In this speech or song from Mary, we hear her understanding of what this baby will mean for the world. Jesus is not even born and his accomplishments are grand. It comes from faith. Mary has faith that this child will transform the world and bring light into the dark places.

This is the third week of advent. Those little Advent candles have a lot of darkness to overcome this year. The advent candles shine brightly in the Sanctuary and in Celebrate worship.  The flames represent the divine promise that even the smallest light can chase away the shadows in this world. The light is not only in the church. Look around and see the lights glowing in windows of our homes, in hospitals and in Las Vegas.  We have faith that even in the darkest places, God cannot be kept out.

It’s a hard promise to have faith when the darkness seems so heavy and thick. Mary is scared. We are scared.

Let us have faith that the light will shine into all of the dark places of our lives and throughout the world. May we claim the hope that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.

Prayer: God, give us a bold faith like Mary. Even when we are scared, may we have a deep faith in the light of your love.  Amen.

Author: Michelle Thomas-Bush

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].